Ding! Ding! Ding! Spin Zone Alert! Tribune Weasel-Wording With Another Incomplete Non-Story! Ding! Ding! Ding!
A hint here. Whenever the Tribune uses the word “some” in its headline, look out: Vague, incomplete, spun, non-story ahead. And the November 26th’ entry was no exception. Here was the headline:
“Some charge Osos tax was money down the drainpipe.”
Some? Some charge? Is that like “everyone?” as in, “Mummy, Mummy, everyone’s going to go naked to Jimmy’s all night party, can I go too?”
Wait, it gets even better. Later in the non-story, we find out that the attorney for Taxpayers Watch (Oh, Nooooo, not them. Mummy, Mummy, please, PLEEEZE make those awful people go away!), “Since September . . . has been advising property owners who paid their assessment in lump sums to file claims in bankruptcy court . . . and Kate Neiswender, is noted as saying that . . . “property owners should be entitled to their money back for ethical reasons.”
A lawyer going into a bankruptcy court and arguing “ethical reasons?”
Even better, she is quoted as saying that the claims filed in bankruptcy court by “some people” should be decided this way: “The argument becomes more of equity and fairness than it does legal specifics.” In other words, she wants the bankruptcy judge to rule on the claims being brought by “some people” not on “legal specifics,” but on “equity and fairness.”
Or, need I add, “ethics?”
Well, a little back story. In 2001, the previous CSD Board set up a by-mail assessment vote for all property owners within the Prohibition Zone to assess themselves for the start up of a wastewater project. Single-family homes were assessed approximately $3,895, or they could choose to pay up front, which would have been about $3,340.” Some people decided to pay up front. Most didn’t.
The money collected went towards design, easements, land acquisitions, etc, for A WASTEWATER TREATMENT PROJECT. Interestingly enough, the assessments were only for the tiniest amount possible, not the full amount, since nobody knew the full costs because, at the time of the vote, there were no caps on the project, there never were caps on the project, it was entirely open-ended, limitless, and the HUGE final costs would come in the form of “service fees,” which required no further assessment-type votes.
In short, in 2002, the homeowners voted to assess themselves to start a wastewater project with no end in sight – (talk about fair and equitable and ethical) a totally open-ended project. (I know, “some people” actually thought they were buying a sewer project for their $3,895. Oh, no, not even close. Not even in the ball park. The voted-on start-up assessment costs were for a project that went “bait & switchy” on them, went 40% over bids, then went south with the old board wastefully pounding millions of their dollars into the ground prior to being recalled.)
Even more interesting to this case, the previous CSD encouraged people to pay up front by sending a letter offering a discount, i.e. pay up now and save interest. And even included in the letter that “in the unlikely event that the project does not move forward, [the prepayment] will be returned.”
Ah, you see the problem right there? Yes. “. . . does not move forward.”
Uh, Somebody want to define that for me? Move forward? Does “move out of town” count as “moving forward?” Does temporarily halting the project so it can be moved out of town still constitute “moving forward?” Does updating the project count as “moving forward?” Does submitting the updated project for peer review qualify as “moving forward.? The County now has the project, so are they “moving forward?”
Yet, apparently, it’s that letter that Ms. Neiswender is using to “advise” “some people” to go into court and demand claims that “range from $800 to $15,000 per property owner, plus interest.”
And for another wrinkle, -- Wait for it, it gets delicious -- The CSD members signing that original letter that promised repayment if the [wastewater] project did not move forward, were some of the very folks who were later recalled from office. One, a vital, active member and supporter of Taxpayer Watch is, – yep, Gordon Hensley. Did he sign that letter while on the Board? If so, will Taxpayers Watch “encourage” Gordon to go into bankruptcy court and explain to Judge Riblet what HE meant by . . . not moving forward?
Well, this is wonderful! And it remains to be seen what the Judge makes of it all: either she will decide right then or bounce the whole thing back to state court and see how a Superior Court judge would rule – law or ethics & equity and fairness. Hmmmm,. . .
Meanwhile, of course, defending against such suits by “some people” further depletes the coffers of the CSD, hence may end up sticking the costs of all this onto the citizens of the CSD, which includes ALL people, not just “some.” Which raises the questions, Is that Fair? Equitable? Ethical?
And since Taxpayer’s Watch failed in their dissolution bid, then failed to get two of their “slate” of CSD candidates elected, are they now going to “encourage” more lawsuits in an effort to simply bleed the CSD to death by any means, fair or foul?
All the while, of course, decrying fiscal irresponsibility on the part of the CSD, while they themselves still owe LAFCO some $27,000 in county costs for bringing their failed dissolution case against the CSD. To my knowledge, they haven’t paid off that debt yet, which again brings up matters equitable & fair for “some people.”
Oh, and, of course, “ethical.”